keys to maintaining status

International students have certain responsibilities in order to maintain their status while studying in the US. While the information below will pertain mostly to all international students, some will only be relevant to those in F-1 or J-1 status. Please carefully review the information and contact ISSS if you have any questions about your status.

Communicating with ISSS

Check your email!  Important immigration information is sent to you through your Illinois email address.  It is your responsibility according to the student code of conduct to check your email regularly.

For general questions, please contact us at or 217-333-1303.

Update your address

Update any address changes in iStart within 10 days of your move.  J-1 students who are not sponsored by the University of Illinois should contact their program sponsor. 


Keep your passport valid

If you need to renew your passport, contact your home country’s consulate or embassy for instructions.  Once you have obtained your new passport, please provide ISSS with a copy.

Do not let your immigration documents expire

Make sure you extend your I-20 or DS-2019 in a timely manner – before the document expires.  If you need more time to complete your program, please request a Program Extension in iStart at least two weeks before your end date listed on your document.

Update immigration documents

Any time that you change your field, change level of study, or have a change in funding, you should update your I-20 or DS-2019.   

Transfer Out

If you plan on transferring to another institution, please contact ISSS for transfer procedures.


Register for a full course of study

Students must register for full time (12 hours) every Fall and Spring semester. Full time summer registration of 6 credits is only required if it is your first or last intended semester of study. Some automatic exceptions apply for students taking ESL classes, thesis credit, or those holding assistantships. Please check with ISSS regarding your specific situation.

Planning on Registering Less than Full Time?

Please visit ISSS BEFORE the semester begins, or before dropping below full time. Failure to do so may result in the termination of your visa status.


Obtain a travel signature prior to international travel

Your I-20 or DS-2019 must have a valid travel signature from an ISSS staff member on it in order to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad.  This travel signature stays valid for one year.


Do not work without authorization

J-1 visa holders must obtain a work eligibility letter from ISSS for all on campus employment.  J-1’s must apply for Academic Training if the employment is off campus.

F-1 students may accept on campus employment, but must be authorized if the work is off-campus.  F-1 students must apply for CPT if the work is off campus. Students usually apply for OPT after the completion of their program.

Do not work more than 20 hours a week total

Working above 20 hours a week is a violation of your student status.  You must not work more than 20 hours a week during the Fall and Spring semesters (and Summer if it is your final semester of registration).  If the school is officially on a break, you may work full time on campus without further approval.  It is your responsibility to keep track of your hours.


SEVIS – Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.  SEVIS is an online database that has been developed by ICE to track all students and scholars who are in F-1 and J-1 status.  Their spouses and child dependents are tracked in SEVIS as well.

I-20 – A multi-purpose government form which governs F-1 status.  This document must be maintained and active in order to be in legal status in the U.S. during the course of your studies.

DS-2019 – Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitors (J-1 students).  This document must be maintained and active throughout your studies in the U.S.

(Entry) Visa – Placed on a page in a passport, issued by a consular officer at the US consulate/embassy.  The entry visa is only “used” to enter the U.S.  Once you have entered the United States, the visa ceases to have a function until next time it is needed to enter the U.S.

IMPORTANT: “Visa” is sometimes used interchangeably to refer to other immigration documents and statuses. Please note that when we say ‘visa’, we are always referring to the entry visa in the passport.

I-94 – Customs and Border Patrol now gathers travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Those who need to prove their legal-visitor status—to employers, schools/universities or government agencies—can access their CBP arrival/departure record information online. Prior to April 2013, individuals entering the US were issued paper I-94 cards (a small white card).

Please contact ISSS if you have any questions about maintaining your status.

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